What are the greatest opening lines to songs?

Composers often agonize over lyrics, hoping to come up with an opening line that will grab the listener. My all time favourite is from Billy Bragg’s “Levi Stubbs’ Tears.” It says so much in so few words.

With the money from her accident, she bought herself a mobile home.

Ruminate on that for just a few seconds and you begin to form a picture of the life of the woman in the song.

A site called Yardbreaker has listed what it considers the best opening lines of all time. Here’s a sample:

  • Hello darkness, my old friend/I’ve come to talk to you again – “The Sounds of Silence,” Simon and Garfunkel
  • This is the end/Beautiful friend/This is the end/My only friend, the end – “The End,” The Doors
  • The screen door slams / Mary’s dress waves / Like a vision, she dances across the porch as the radio plays. – “Thunder Road,” Bruce Springsteen
  • She’s got a smile that it seems to me / Reminds me of childhood memories / Where everything was as fresh as the bright blue sky. – “Sweet Child O’ Mine,” Guns N’ Roses

The full list can be found here. You got anything to add?

Alan Cross

is an internationally known broadcaster, interviewer, writer, consultant, blogger and speaker. In his 40+ years in the music business, Alan has interviewed the biggest names in rock, from David Bowie and U2 to Pearl Jam and the Foo Fighters. He’s also known as a musicologist and documentarian through programs like The Ongoing History of New Music.

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9 thoughts on “What are the greatest opening lines to songs?

  • Can I say when I go?
    Can I say when I go?
    Bury out of my skin
    Bury out of my skin

    • Just Mustard – “Deaf”

  • Patti Smith – “Gloria”

    Jesus died for somebody’s sins but not mine.

  • Well I woke up Sunday morning
    No way to hold my head that didn’t hurt
    And the beer I had for breakfast wasn’t bad
    So I had one more for dessert

    Sunday Morning Coming Down
    Kris Kristofferson

  • Children are innocent,
    Teenager’s ****** up in the head,
    Adults are even more ****** up,
    And elderlies are like children.

    “Pets” by Porno for Pyros

  • Looking out at the road rushing under my wheels
    Looking back at the years gone by like so many summer fields

    Running On Empty -Jackson Browne

  • Ain’t it just like the night to play tricks when you’re tryin’ to be so quiet
    Visions of Johanna, Bob Dylan

  • I’m a bad dream
    I’m not a nightmare I’m too pretty for that
    I’m the last thing you want to see coming
    I’m the reason they say watch your back

    Saint of Lost Causes – Justin Townes Earle

  • Now here’s a little story I’ve got to tell, about three bad brothers you know so well.
    -Paul Revere- by The Beastie Boys


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